Where Are Your Inbound Links?

Part One: What Are Inbound Links And How To Find Them

image - inbound linksLet’s talk about inbound links, what they are and what to do with them. This post is the first of a two-part series. Today we’ll take a look at exactly what inbound links are and how to find them. Later, in part two, we’ll look at what we can do with that information and how to acquire more of the same.

What Are Inbound Links

One-way Links

One way links are exactly that – an inbound link to your main blog URL or to an internal page/post within your blog. Ultimately, it would seem, the right one-way links can have some pretty positive benefits when it comes to the major search engines. For example, what would happen to a post on your blog if The Huffington Post or The Washington Post linked to it? That would be pretty powerful, wouldn’t it?

Reciprocal Linking

Reciprocal linking can be a good situation but almost leaves a bad taste in the mouth of old school bloggers. By that I mean, at first thought, I think of reciprocal linking as the old gray-hat, and now useless, “you link to me and I’ll link back” SEO strategy. Obviously, that no longer works, if it ever did, and is a complete waste of time. I’m amazed to still find those amateurish offers in my inbox before I report them as spam.

Anyway, back on track; reciprocal linking is not always shady or useless. Trackbacks, for example; many bloggers don’t allow trackbacks at all because they tend to be mostly spam but allowing legitimate trackbacks doesn’t necessarily hurt your blog. By that, I mean, the notion that a trackback will “cancel out” an authoritative inbound link is ridiculous.

Another form of reciprocal linking that comes to mind is that which simply happens naturally. Take Basic Blog Tips for example. Our sites are similar, Ileane is a friend and we run the same blogging circles. There are, naturally, a handful of links in both directions on our blogs. There’s nothing wrong with that and both blogs benefit from the natural linking. In fact, that’s what Google has been saying for years is considered proper linking.

Three-way Linking

Here’s where we move into the realm of gray, and even black hat tactics and I highly suggest you avoid three-way linking schemes altogether. This was a very common practice for those of us into niche blogging and niche sites such as what were called AdSense sites. I say “were” called because Panda killed them off last year, rightfully, even though a few haven’t realized they are dead yet.

Here’s how it worked… I would build a site on, say, hair tonics, for example. Then I would message one of my niche blogging buddies and see if they had a domain in the beauty supply or hair care niche. Anything related to the niche would work and, in return, I would link to something of theirs from yet another niche blog. That’s three-way linking and, simply put, is a bad idea. Google isn’t new at this and can, and will, find those desperate attempts at cheating the system and you just might end up paying a major price for it.

I recommend natural link building and concentrate on building relationships and using social media as much as possible. Don’t waste valuable time and energy trying to cheat a system that changes without notice and can stay two or three plays ahead of you at any given time. It’s like playing chess with a supercomputer that will destroy your blog when it beats you; not a good idea.

Seek And Search Out Those Links

There are a number of ways we can determine where our inbound links originate and it’s not a bad idea to record those that you find. Why on Earth would you record something like that? Well, it’s helpful to know who’s linking to you, why they’re linking to you and how it’s helping your status in the search engine heavens. We’ll get into what to do with this information in part two next week but, first, let’s look at a few free and simple tools to help discover these all-important inbound links.

Google Wants To Help

No single source will help you determine where your incoming link juice is coming from than the Big G its self. Google has a couple of free online tools that will lay it all out on the table for you, so to speak.

  1. First, we have simple Google Analytics. If you’re not using Google Analytics I would highly recommend you start right away. The information gained from it Google’s data and statistics is invaluable and it’s not something to shy away from. I’ve actually read where people think it’s too much information and just a waste of time. I say, look where they’re site sits on Google and don’t listen to a word of it.
    Google Analytics Referrals
  2. The second free Google resource is, of course, Webmaster Tools. Webmaster Tools, just like Google Analytics, is so much more than a place to see incoming link juice but it is one of the best places to see who’s linking out to you.
    Webmaster Tools Links

Remember Bing?

The newest large search monster, Bing, has its own Webmaster Tools and you can find backlinks there as well. I recommend at least signing onto Bing Webmaster Tools and seeing what it can do for you.
image - Bing Webmaster Tools

Alexa Links

Alexa uses different criteria for what counts as an inbound links than Google does. Alexa allows only one link per domain. Have 10,000 inbound links from Twitter? To Alexa, you just have one. Finding those inbound links according to Alexa is a simple matter. Just replace my site with yours in the following URL:
http://www.alexa.com/site/linksin/hotblogtips.com (UPDATE: This is a paid service now)

What’s Next?

Now that we understand the different incoming links and how to find them, next week in Part two we will discuss what we can do with this valuable information. Until then, what methods do you use to find your backlinks? How important are those links? What do you do with them, if anything?